Making Art to Overcome a Perfectionist Mindset


What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a mindset of unrealistic standards that people may impose on themselves, on other people, on situations and/or things, like artwork.

How does perfectionism make daily living challenging?

People with a perfectionist mindset may experience mental and emotional pressure which leads to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. As a self-identified perfectionist, I often avoid doing things that require me to draw, arrange or decorate. I’m afraid that the end results will not match the perfect image I’ve created in my mind. I get frustrated with details such as wanting everything to be the same size or making sure the colors match. My fear that the results won’t meet my expectations prevents me from starting or finishing projects. I frequently miss out on opportunities for artistic expression, fun, creativity, and bonding with others who enjoy being creative.

Recognizing a perfectionist mindset

Like many things, awareness is the first step in creating change. Here are some of the traits of perfectionism in the form of questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I compare myself to others?
  • Am I afraid to make mistakes?
  • Do I struggle with acceptance?
  • Am I afraid of being judged?

If you answered yes to some or all these questions and are interested in challenging yourself, I’d like to share how making art in a supportive, non-judgmental environment helped me work through my fears.

TACID’s Art in Recovery Group

Lisa Stiebrs has been one of TACID’s certified peer counselors for at least 8 years. One of the many groups she facilitates is Art in Recovery. Here is what she says about the group, “There are no mistakes in art. If you think you made a mistake, it can be turned into something else, painted over, or you can always start fresh. I’ve learned that, if I don’t point out the “mistake” other people would have no way of knowing it wasn’t intentional. It is my art.”

                            Art created by Lisa Stiebrs from a broken mug.

Challenging my perfectionist mindset through art making

I feel uncomfortable drawing freely, however, there are many forms of art. You can make collages from magazines, use stencils for tracing, or create something that is abstract. Working with Lisa, I’ve learned that using stencils helps me to be creative while still providing the structure I need. Making abstract art eases my mind because it doesn’t have to look like something—there’s no “correct” way for abstract art to appear.

Ask first!

One of the guidelines of Art in Recovery is to ask before commenting on someone else’s art. This helps to avoid the pressures of receiving judgement of any kind. Although my inner critic still exists, this group has reminded me that there is support and creative ways to work around discomfort.

For more information about perfectionism, check out this article Perfectionism, Overcoming All-or-Nothing Thinking

If you’d like more information about participating in TACID’s Art in Recovery Group, check out TACID’s AIR Flyer

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